Microsoft applies for patent outlining “inconspicuous mode”

Tablet glowing in the darkJust because a company applies for or even receives a patent, it doesn’t necessarily mean the feature will end up in a future product. As Microsoft does from time to time, the company applied for a new patent recently. This one is called “inconspicuous mode” and if it ever makes it to Windows Phone, the world will be a slightly happier place.

“Inconspicuous mode” works by not only turning down the brightness but also minimizing the user interface on screen. It’s best to describe this patent with an example. Smartphone brightness in general is at an optimal level, offering enough light to make our screens visible in direct sunlight. However, in certain environments that brightness can cause some bothersome issues.

Microsoft's "Inconspicuous Mode"Take the theater for instance. Like illustrated in the photo, most users take out their smartphone during a movie to check the time or perform a similar, quick action. But in a darkened room, even the lockscreen can be an annoying distraction to fellow audience members. Microsoft proposes then that the interface be stripped to the bare minimum and show only the current time, removing the notifications and bright background image. The patent is a really neat idea and the software’s ability to detect certain conditions automatically, like a darkened room, make it even more promising. Since it has such an obvious real-world use and doesn’t seem too difficult to implement, we could definitely see “inconspicuous mode” making its way to a future iteration of Windows Phone.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has no official plans to roll out the feature. A spokesperson for the company responded to an inquiry from Engadget with the type of canned response expected in this situation, stating Microsoft “regularly applies for and receives patents” and “not all” of them show up in shipped products. Fortunately for Windows Phone fans, a typical response like that proves nothing. Microsoft could very well be working on the feature but unwilling to talk about it at this time.

With any luck, Windows Phone could usher in a new era of smartphones that know when it’s polite to be discreet. It could also help minimize the shock of an incredibly bright screen assaulting your vision in the morning. Like the concept Surface Phone, we’d like to officially add this to our wish list.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Doubts emerge over when LG will reveal its folding smartphone

LG may be working on a folding smartphone, making it the latest device manufacturer to be linked to the technology, which may become one of the standout designs of the coming year.
Mobile

Report: Samsung's upcoming foldable phone will cost a hefty $1,800

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy F, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Mobile

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Product Review

The Black Shark gaming phone takes a big bite out of your free time, but the software sinks it

The world is being treated to an ever-increasing number of high-powered gaming phones. With so many great options already out, is there room for another? The Black Shark thinks so. But is it any good? We find out.
Mobile

iOS jailbreak app store Cydia shuts down purchasing

For years, iOS users have been jailbreaking their devices to install software not approved by Apple. But now the popular app store alternative Cydia will no longer be accepting purchases.
News

Lawsuit alleges Apple falsely advertised the screen size of the iPhone X

A lawsuit alleges that Apple was dishonest in the way that it marketed the iPhone X. The lawsuit alleges that despite Apple's marketing campaign, the new iPhone is not in fact all screen because of the notch.
Mobile

Is somebody watching you? How to stop apps from tracking your location

If you don't like the idea of your every movement being tracked by apps on the phone in your pocket, then you may want to turn location tracking off. We take a look at how to do it on an iPhone or Android phone in this easy guide.
Business

Apple is still selling iPhones in China despite being ordered not to

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Smart Home

Starbucks teams with Uber Eats for delivery from 2,000 of its U.S. stores

Starbucks has teamed up with Uber Eats to offer customers deliveries from almost a quarter of its stores in the U.S. The major expansion launches early next year, making life even easier for fans of the coffee giant.
Mobile

Huawei Nova 4 has a hole in the screen, and a 48-megapixel camera on the back

Huawei has launched the Nova 4, a new smartphone that has abandoned the screen notch and adopted a punch hole alternative, and also has a massive 48-megapixel camera. Here's what you need to know about the Nova 4.
Mobile

Black hole in the screen of Samsung's new Galaxy A8s has a camera inside

Samsung is building exciting, technologically innovative midrange phones, and the latest to be revealed is the new Samsung Galaxy A8s, which may give us an idea of what the new Samsung Galaxy S10 will look like.
Mobile

Score a Christmas deal with Speck’s half-off sale on its entire range of cases

The holidays might be nearing, but bargains don't take time off. To celebrate the last day for U.S. ground shipping, Speck will be offering a sitewide 50-percent-off deal for one day only on Monday December 17.
Mobile

Walk, run, and stretch with these handy iPhone fitness apps

Working out and getting yourself in shape isn't easy, but it's easier with the right set of apps. These best iPhone fitness apps will help you to track your calories, monitor your sleep, and achieve your fitness goals.